Thursday, February 21, 2008

Girl Power, Dark and Stormy Style

I was over at Pool's place last night and the topic of the day was misogyny.

It reminded me of a few lines of conversation I had recently with another person who said (I am paraphrasing, here) something to the effect of "it's ok for women to be... like women." And then I remembered another chat I was having with some other person about feminism and how much good it did "us." And yesterday, my friend Mitt emailed me, all casual like, and asked what I thought of feminism.

Since most of my readers are women, let me address you first. Hi, ladies! This is my longest post on record if you read it, you will not like me anymore. I am not a good feminist. (Oh and I threw in some drawings along the way just to liven things up a bit).

Here is what I wrote back to Mitt.


Women are not valued in our culture. They were not valued 50 years ago and they are not valued now. Before feminism, women were told they could a) get married b) become a nurse c) become a teacher d) become a librarian or e) be a secretary. They spent their teenage years preparing not for college, but preparing for marriage, which meant competing for mates. This competition was waged mostly in terms of the attractiveness of their bodies, and the giddy sweetness of their dispositions. They measured their success not in terms of education, but in terms of their ability to attract a successful man who could take care of them. Nursing school was for ugly girls, teaching was for boring girls, and the school library was for girls who were - horror of horrors! - smart and serious. Secretarial work, as everyone knows, was for sluts.

The idea that a woman could do anything else was considered really too silly and ridiculous - certainly too silly and ridiculous for a pretty girl who could get a husband. Girls stayed virgins until they married, not because they felt no desire, but because they were taught to pretend they had no desire, so their virtue could be proclaimed as both a medical fact and emotional and social commodity. Virgins were valued because the very best men married them. Non-virgins became secretaries, as everyone could see.

Women fell in love, and when their boyfriends looked at them and said I love you, what they meant was "I will marry you and take care of your for the rest of our lives. We will always be together." Their wedding days were the happiest days of their lives.

Once married, women cooked and cleaned and decorated. They spent their days feathering the nest - on a budget, mind you, so as not to be wasteful of a husband's hard earned money. The good wife knew that she ate on the bounty of her husband's charity. She wore pressed dresses and heels all day so that she would be appealing to him even when he was not at home. When he arrived, he was greeted with a martini and the evening newspaper, because he had worked so hard all day. While her hero was reading the newspaper and smoking his pipe, she would finish whipping up the hollandaise sauce for the vegetables, which you understand, she has been working on all day, without modern electrical kitchen aids. When she had cleaned the kitchen after dinner, when he had finished his newspaper, they would retire for the evening and have sex, regardless of whether she actually felt any interest.  She did not consider whether she was interested in sex or not important, because everyone knows that it's a wife's duty to please her husband in bed.  Women who don't are sorry when they find their husbands have strayed with their secretaries.

Sooner than later, the wife became pregnant. A new life! Joy! Life was a pony ride through a daisy field. A never-ending romp through a meadow of lavender. Sheer bliss.

Childbirth is unbelievably undignified and painful, but her husband, thank heavens, doesn't have to see her blood greased legs or hear her screaming. He is fiddling with a cigar in the waiting room, and for that she is grateful.

The child is laid in her arms, and suddenly she knows, all the way down to her bones, that she cannot so much as brush her teeth or clip a coupon without first considering the ultimate effect her action will have on her child. She also knows that it is also dreadfully important that the home she has created be just as orderly as it ever because her husband deserves a sanctuary from his terrifically difficult work, work he does so that she can eat have more than one pair of shoes. Which reminds her that if she seriously expects her husband not to stray, she'd better "get her figure back" very quickly indeed.

Back at home, she discovers something surprising: her baby needs her, but it does not love her. If it loved her, it would not scream non-stop for four hours at a stretch, regardless of whether it is hungry or tired or changed or burped. If it loved her, it would not yank on her hair and punch her in the face and chew her nipples bloody while she tried to feed it. If it loved her, it would sleep more than 45 minutes at a time. She abandons all hope of keeping the house orderly, and the faint prayer that she might not die soon replaces the idea that she might get her figure back. She learns what any woman who has ever had a baby, or witnessed the transformation of a friend during the six weeks post birth knows: there is no such thing as post-partum depression. There is, however, powerful, homicide inducing post-partum regret. If she is depressed, it is because she sincerely would put the baby right back inside her body if it meant she could sleep for even two hours together. She finds herself, against her will, feeling a little resentful that her beloved does not seem to notice that if he did just ONE night feeding, she could sleep for THREE hours. It would never occur to him to try to do a feeding. After all, she stays home all day. She can sleep whenever she can.

She resents, just a little bit, that he gets to go to an office every day and cannot hear the baby screaming. She resents, but only a very tiny bit, the fact that he looks so refreshed and happy when he leaves her all alone with her vomit-matted hair and blood-crusted nipples and goes to work. Looking at herself in the mirror, she does not wonder why he hardly ever wants to have sex with her anymore. And so she is not surprised when she discovers that he does not love her anymore. She knows this because his shirts have a peculiar floral smell, and he has taken to showering the moment he comes from work. Of course, he does pay the mortgage and keep the lights on. And that's something. To make herself feel just a little less lonely, she has another baby.

This is if all goes well.

Here's a view (dramatized and probably unjustly dark) view of life for women after "feminism."

Girls now are taught from an early age that they can have it all, that they, too, can leave the house every day and go to a fulfilling, intellectually and spiritually meaningful workplace of their choosing. If our girl wants to be a machinist, it's no problem. If she wants to be a physicist, she should go for it. If she wants to wear a pantsuit and run for president, she can absolutely try.

Rather than preparing for marriage, she prepares for college. At the same time, she diets and pinches and primps. She curls her eyelashes and her hair. She paints her nails and shaves her legs. She waxes her eyebrows and she gets her teeth whitened. If she is a real achiever, she gets a nose job or breast implants. None of this prepares her for college, of course. She does these things, which, by the way, interest her far more than her schoolwork, so she can get boyfriends, boys she will "date" not because they have even the most remote and tenuous connection to her future, but because "hanging out" with them and exploring their sexuality together will make her a more seasoned and complex human being.

With these boys, she must mask her desire. Desire is slutty, after all - unless she can convince the boy that she is breaking her very chaste principles only because she is overwhelmed by her love for him - and by his extraordinary make out skills. At the same time, her friends make fun of her because she is still a virgin, a condition that proves that she is really too silly and ridiculous. Her boyfriend, like all modern boys, expects sex because everyone else is getting it and he feels that in 2007, it is his personal birthright to have sex with every girl he pays the merest scrap of attention to. For a girl not to have sex is old fashioned, silly, ridiculous, not the mention the very opposite of cool.

She relinquishes her virginity to the first adolescent boy who makes their hearts beat faster because he tells her that if she won't someone else will, and she does not want to lose him. And anyways, she is pretty sure she loves the guy, and love makes it ok. Love conquers all. The first time the adolescent who makes her heart beat faster says he'll call and doesn't, she will have the work of becoming emotionally seasoned and complex well underway. But in the back of her mind, she knows that when whoever said "love conquers all" didn't mean that love was supposed to conquer her, to make her a prisoner to a fucking telephone. She will cry for over it for days and be ashamed. But she won't know quite why.

If she is lucky, she will make it through high school without getting pregnant or HPV. And she will have explored her sexuality - the result of which will be that she has learned how to fake orgasm so convincingly that not even God could tell she was bored to death.

If she is unlucky, she will learn that love might have conquered her good sense, but has not conquered biology. She gets pregnant, gets an abortion, gets HPV -- and from a totally different guy, a guy with a Camaro and a mean streak a mile wide, chlamydia.

But we'll just assume that she is lucky, because as we all know, the world is a kind and friendly place.

She emerges from high school a modern and emancipated woman. But it will take college to teach her these words.

In college, she joins a sorority and learns, using a banana as a proxy, that it is indeed possible to put a man's penis most of the way down her throat. It's about relaxing and accepting. It's about not defending. The same principal applies to funneling beer - which she has also gotten very, very good at. She dates boys who also like to funnel beer, and she is proud of herself because she mostly always demands that they use a condom when they have drunken pre-dawn sex. She is responsible like that. Though she sort of likes the sex, she often finds herself thinking of the adolescent boy and wondering where he is now, what he is doing. She is afraid, for some reason, to find out.

She takes classes in metallurgy, but they don't suit her. She takes English classes, but she finds all the poems and plays about love seem like they are about a sort of love she has never even heard of, the sort of love that makes people stare at the moon and weep and want to hold each other forever.  It all sounds really cheesy to her.

She takes classes in psychology, but she finds that all they do is make her think about herself. She tries environmental studies, but she just doesn't care about the color paint they use in hospitals.

Then she takes classes in sociology, and learns that she is right to think only of herself. She learns that men are the enemy, that men have been exploiting her and her sainted female ancestors since the crust of the earth cooled. That it's all the fault of the man, that men are the source of all problems in the whole universe, ever. She feels, for the first time, angry. But she does not quite know who to be angry with. Her parents? The adolescent boy? Herself?

She takes anthropology wonders whether ancient peoples who saved the skulls of their ancestors for worship had the same kinds of issues she has. She wonders if she had lived back then, if she would have been married. She is a good feminist, however, and she knows that she is not supposed to care about this.

She spends her nights smoking cigarettes and weed in a black dress and Birkenstocks- with the other feminists. In the circle they talk about subverting the dominant paradigm, about social justice, about how it's really dishonest to fake orgasm because a man has a right to know that he satisfied her. That she "owes" her man a real, honest to God orgasm. Since faking orgasm is the only thing she feels really very good at, this terrifies her.

It feels like giving up her freedom.

The summer after graduation, she will go to Ohio for her cousin's wedding, and she will cry the whole time. At the reception she will have far too much to drink. She will tell one of the waiters, who reminds her of the adolescent boy, that she loves him. He will fuck her in the lady's room. Shortly thereafter, she will be spotted, by her father, leaving the lady's room while tucking her underwear into her purse. He will look as if he has been murdered, and he will say, between gasps that she is pretty sure are really sobs, that he didn't raise her to behave that way.

After college, she will get a job doing secretarial work at a law firm in the BIG CITY. She knows that the title is slightly beneath her, since she went to college, but everyone goes to college these days. She also knows that if she impresses the right people, she'll move up the corporate ladder. There are lots of women who do really well, too. Some make six figures.

So she's heard.

Five years later, she will have discerned that the women who are no longer secretaries are all women who have fucked the management. Half were fired for fucking the management and half were promoted. She can't figure out the basis on which the decisions were made, and she thinks it must be determined by who exactly you sleep with. She isn't sure who her meal ticket is, though. So she works her ass off and hopes someone notices. No one does.

At the mall on a Saturday night, she sees the orchestra from the local grade school performing in the mezzanine. There is a boy who looks just a bit like the adolescent boy, and he is playing the cello. She also sees a woman who is clearly his mother recording him with a camcorder. She is thinner, prettier and younger than she is. She is also carrying a far more expensive handbag. She looks happy.

She discovers that she wants to get married. And eventually she finds someone. But she will not marry because he makes her want to stare at the moon and weep and hold each other forever. Her man does not promise to take care of her or her children. He does not even make her heart beat faster.

She is thinking about the woman with the camcorder, she is thinking about not waking up alone every day for the rest of her life. She is thinking about how badly she wants someone to think she is worth marrying. She is thinking about how relieved her dad will be that he doesn't have to worry about her anymore. So she accepts his offer. And what an offer!

They will marry, and she will pay for the wedding. Because tradition says that her parents should pay. The fact that they can't afford it is inconvenient, yes. But it's her problem, not his.

They will get a house, and she will keep it clean, well decorated, and well stocked with food. She will not even consider quitting her job so that she can undertake these duties, because he won't have her freeloading off him.  These are modern times, after all, and women work. She should maintain her own keep. She will pay half the mortgage even though he makes three times as much money. She will pay for all the groceries because she does not know how to ask him to split the bill with her, even though he eats about twice as much.

She will work ten-hour days, and then she will cook, clean, and decorate on the weekends while he plays golf and goes to strip clubs with his friends. When he comes home from the clubs, she will ask him what the strippers do so that she can mimic them in the bedroom. She feels like it's really important to keep her husband satisfied, since everyone knows that a woman who doesn't satisfy her man in bed shouldn't be shocked when her husband leaves her for another woman. By the time they have been married a year, he is opening bringing pornography into their home, and soon, he is asking her to perform sex acts he would have been shy to mention to a prostitute before they were married.

She still has no idea what it feels like to reach orgasm while in physical contact with another human being.

They fight constantly. She wants a camcorder and a better handbag. He wants to come home to a hot meal and a newspaper. When she gets pregnant, she notices for the first time that her husband's shirts smell ever so slightly of perfume. He comes home later and later. In the eighth month of her pregnancy, while she is timing her contractions and praying that she does not die in childbirth, her husband comes home drunk and calls her a fat sow before her passes out in front of "Stormy Daniels Does Everything with Everyone" a video she now knows by heart.

The next morning, he leaves her for a much younger, much prettier secretary who works on another floor in his building.

When her baby comes, she will be entirely alone. When she holds her child for the first time, she knows now that no matter what she does, she will have to think of her child first. She cannot so much as brush her teeth or clip a coupon without first considering the ultimate effect her action will have on her child. And that she will also have to pay the entire mortgage, pay the light bill, and keep her job somehow (so that she has some kind of "identity")

If her baby is a girl, she will somehow have to teach her that men are not the enemy so that her daughter has a reasonable chance of ever loving anyone. If her baby is a boy, she will somehow have to teach him how to be a man, even though she is not sure she knows any worth emulating.

Still, her child is a joy, and she'd have another one if she could afford it and could do so without feeling that it was "wrong" to do so without a man in her life to father them. So she doesn¹t. And her child grows up to be a megalomaniac because he actually thinks the world is "about" him. How could he not, when he is the absolute center and entire meaning of his mother's life, when he is all she has in the whole wide world? Though he means this much to her, he will care less and less about all she has given him, as he gets older. He will develop a really jocular, bar-chums relationship with his father, who is much cooler than she is. He will, in the end, put himself first - because that' exactly what she has trained him to do.

So goes the world. Right?

At least half of the modern and emancipated women I know who are married would rather have never been married at all, since they are married to men who feel they did their wives a favor by lowering themselves to being "tied down." The feminist movement trained women to think they "have it all" because they have children, a husband and a fulltime job. Yep, they have it all. All the work a person can do without her brain liquefying and running out her ears.

Women are not valued as caregivers, and the work of care giving, because it is women's work, is considered degrading. Women feel compelled to do it, and yet they are ashamed if they enjoy it and even more ashamed if they choose it.

Women are not valued as coworkers, either. Obviously, if we were valued for our labor, we'd make a dollar on the dollar. And more important, we wouldn¹t have so many women trying in vain to crack the glass ceiling, while also feeling 100% responsible for caring for a home, a husband and children while paying half the bills. Thats just as unjust in my opinion as women not being able to pee standing up or get jobs as executives. (Note: neither of those things is possible on a significant scale yet.)

So what do I think about feminism? I think it's just great except for the part where women are hated and devalued just as much as they ever were.

Am I a feminist? Hell, yes. Because I still believe there is still reams of work to do. The thing is, I part ways with most feminists when I say that a huge part of the job is taking back the respect we used to demand as our birthright instead of abandoning it to prove a point about being emancipated. The exquisite pitch of misery and complication I see all around me every day in the faces of overworked, frenzied, lonely, abused women is not what I would call emancipation. 

I want to state, on the record and with no equivocation, that I believe in love. Even I, who am sometimes called the dark phoenix by my friends (I can convince anyone in ten minutes or less that their significant other, particularly if he is a man, is actually the main source of the problems and the worst thing that has ever happened to them), believe wholeheartedly in the power of love. I cry at movies. I love the sublime otherness of the male creature, and I sometimes even make out with Jib. Oh and I love babies. I sing songs to children. I think weddings are fun. In addition, I also think being a woman is awesome, in part for the following reasons:

Holding hands
The smell of a man's dirty shirt
Nail polish
did I mention lingerie?

Was I clear enough? I love children, needlework, doing laundry, washing windows and horror of horrors, cooking. And I am not going to pretend I don't like doing these things so that I can be a better feminist.

Perhaps this is what the feminist movement is about in the first place but the suffering inflicted on both sides of the continuum is just staggering. And no, don't get me started about how confusing the male situation is given these changes. I"ll break the internet. And I am not even a man or married to one.

Sometimes at the end of a long post about something serious by asking people to go easy on me. Not today. Shred me if you want. (But you can't make me stop loving pretty underwear and housework. You can't stop me. You can't. So don't even try).


Willowtree said...

Well that certainly was a long post all right. Fortunately for me I didn't have to read any of it on account of my being a registered misogynist and all. A real misogynist doesn't care what women have to say....

Willowtree said...

Oh, and I love pretty underwear too, but I hate the way it rides up my butt crack.

Mrs. Who said...

Excellent observations. I could never understand how feminists equated being a liberated woman by denying one's womanhood.

But I hate housework, liberated or not.

Anonymous said...

So, did you write that reply in one sitting?

Geezus H. Nina, you're awesome.

And also? Maybe think about submitting that feminist essay to a publisher?

Woodrow said...

That was fucking depressing.

Kate P said...

Actually, it was a good thing the post was long b/c now I'm too tired to start in on feminism. Or what feminism has turned into. But I get what you're saying and Yeah! to your woman-list.

My mom's the oldest of seven and when she finished high school her parents said they could afford either one year of college or one year of secretarial school. She chose secretarial school. Now you have me wondering about her! (And I'm studying to be a librarian. I probably am too darn serious.)

Anonymous said...

"(I can convince anyone in ten minutes or less that their significant other, particularly if he is a man, is actually the main source of the problems and the worst thing that has ever happened to them)"

How much money do you have? I ask this because this may be the easiest money I have ever taken from someone. I have tried and failed to convince my gf of this very thing... plenty of times... and she ain't havin' it... I can be pretty convincing and if I have failed, I really doubt you can succeed in this case. So... $1000? $2000?

country roads said...

You. Are. Amazing.

and this is brilliant.

LAS said...

Nina, you are my hero.

Em said...

This is a good post and very relevant. Thank you for writing it.

I love pretty underwear too. . .but housework? Eww. There's nothing like getting married and having kids to make a woman hate housework.

Marlee said...

um, the smell of a man's dirty shirt??

Anonymous said...

I think that the idea of a woman "having it all" means options. She doesn't have to do it all, but she can choose the life she wants. I've too many friends who are single, working, taking care of kids, home, pets... Its a hard road.

thesuzvk said...

Somehow I think "having it all" has been translated into "must do it all". I am sort of between these 2 generations and I have felt so guilty for being a stay at home mom and raising a perfectly wonderful child. Where is the justice in that?

P said...

After reading this I thought, OK, women are twits and men are yahoos - I despise them all. It got me all in a twitter because while there is an element of truth to what you write, I feel that the reality between men and women is a lot more nuanced, which makes relationships all the more complicated and layered.

Twits and yahoos: I can't say that this has been my experience with women and men, either in my own life or in observing my mother's life or the lives of my friends. Perhaps this is because all of the women in my life have been (largely) economically independent from their husbands, which gives them a choice to stay or to walk if married life becomes deeply unsatisfactory. Just having this choice makes an enormous impact on any relationship.

I will say that something strange is happening with women having babies in New York. There seems to be a trend among high powered working women of staying at home and stigmatizing women who want to work (or must work). It seems like monumental backsliding to me.

Em said...

to p:
being economically independent from their husbands is really important for women. I learned this only after I became economically dependent on mine. Course, there is still a choice to stay or leave - it just isn't as easy to make.

And I'm very disturbed by the trend these days of women leaving good careers to stay at home and then, as you say, stigmatizing women who want to work. What is that all about?

Personally, I think choosing to stay home is one of the worst decisions a woman can make. Again, I learned this only after making it for myself.

P said...

Em - I had to cajole my mom (who is happily married) into getting her own bank account after 45 years of marriage. I am amazed that more women don't have their own stash, however small, to use for whatever purpose they choose.

From what I've observed, the whole career/stay at home thing is a big tangle of mixed emotions. It's so rare that it's abundantly clear what a woman should do, and I can imagine feeling torn no matter what decision I made. I don't quite understand why men don't feel more torn - they love their babies too, don't they?

Also (and I know I am taking up too much airspace as it is here), I think that we are our own worst enemies - so much of the misogyny is perpetuated by women who force themselves into taking polarized positions that are unnatural to them (eg., "it's a man's world"). I defy the idea that it's a man's world - I think it's too convenient, too easy and too black and white - an excuse for us to feel defeated and wallow in complacency.

Finn said...

Here's my opinion on why women are undervalued:

The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

I once wrote a similarly long post about it. My theory here is that someone long ago decided that in order to gain power and control, women (givers and nurturers of life) needed to be controlled. It began, obviously, with physical control, which changed to psychological control via our sexuality.

We have been undervalued as a means of control. Because we can actually survive quite nicely without actual men (a turkey baster and some donor sperm are all we need). We need to feel less than in order for "them" to feel powerful.

The good news is that the boys we are raising today are getting a different message than their utterly confused fathers (who got mixed ones).

Thanks for posting this.

Sizzle said...

I'm kind of depressed after reading this but mostly because I agree with you and find it all to be true. And I'm a feminist too!

Le sigh.

Ki said...

Um. That was wholy depressing.

This might be true for some women, but throughout history other women have found great joy in whatever their role is-- full time worker or stay-at-home Mom.

I think I'm a little (overwhelmingly) concerned that people think this is how most women think. What about those that are happy?

It doesn't seem realistic to me. I can't believe more than a bare minority has that kind of numbing misiry in their life.

I'm not that miserable, and I'm the stay-at-home Mom who bakes her own bread. Are you that miserable? You're a full time worker?

P.S. About the men-- NO WOMAN should settle for a man who doesn't love her and treat her like a queen-- even if she stays home to take care of his childern, or works to help support the couple with money.

Julie said...

I am lucky in that I have a good and trusting relationship with my husband. I had to stay home to raise our child because I would never have made enough money to cover the costs of daycare, so it would have been ridiculous to work. However, I definitely won't stigmatize any woman who chooses to have a career and a child. It's a personal choice, and if a career is something that makes a mother happy then by all means go for it, especially if she and her husband can afford childcare.

I loved this post. I saw a lot of my grandmother in it, and it was relevant to me.

Nina said...

WT, you obviously aren't buying the right underwear. I am an expert on that, too.

Mrs. Who, you are entitled to hate housework, liberated or not.

Jen, I wrote it in about 2 hours when I was super annoyed at Mitt for acting like I wasn't pro-woman enough because I refused to get into an argument with him about abortion. Hint: I don't discuss abortion, the death penalty, or gun control with anyone, ever.

Woodrow, sorry. But look around. You are not the only one.

Kate P, I am too tired to talk about feminism, too. Let's just say we drop the whole subject and talk about books. Wouldn't that be more pleasant? Oh wait. It's dark and stormy week. Oh well.

e! if you are trying to say your gf loves you, I am glad to hear it. If you are trying to say I could never convince her that you are the reason her life has gone all to pieces, well... I might just be prideful enough to give it a try. :-)

CR, you are just kidding, right?

LAS, no, YOU are MY hero. (I still want to hear about the dress, though).

Em, I can see why you'd say that. My sister in law says the same thing and I see what it does to her - the day in, day out running of the house. Blech. It can be tiresome.

Marlee, I know. I am such a pervert.

Pool, thanks for stopping by. I agree - it means options. The scenarios I drew up were worst case, but I have seen each situation I described happen to actual people. I had choices and I am grateful as hell for them.

thesuzvk, there is no justice in that, which is part of my point. You can make a choice to run your household any way you choose and no other person's politics should interfere with that choice.

P, you are correct: nuance makes up for a lot and of course, the situations I wrote of are dramatized and worst case. No one I know had ALL these terrible things happen to her but, well. I didn't make all that stuff up, either.

Thanks to all for commenting and reading this horrible post. All, I'll respond to the rest of the comments later... must go back to my... job.

utenzi said...

*whew* I'd have to agree with Woodrow, and Marlee too. But it's nice that you got this all off your chest, Nina.

Effortlessly Average said...

um... Suddenly I feel like kicking myself in the balls. I guess I now know why my wife left.

But it's not all roses for some men, ya know. Sometimes a husband tries his level best to be a good man, companion, and partner and his wife still leaves. And it's not easy when you feel the overwhelming heartbreak of watching one you loved for half you life walk away, discarding your heart like so much unwanted lint while at the same time knowing that as a man you're supposed to be stoic; strong; even cold.

I'll be the first to say I think traditional gender roles both helped and hurt relationships, as did the breaking of those barriers. But for some men, it's not a matter of who "needs" whom; it's about honor, respect, companionship, partnership, and most of all loving someone enough to feel as if it's more than just you and her; that you're part of something that, together, is bigger than both of you. After reading this [sad sideways grin] I think I'm going to be single for a long, long time.

Anonymous said...


want to set me up with effortlessly average?

imaginary binky said...

Wow. Well, I must say that I agree with many of your points. I see reflections of my mother, my grandmother, and various other females in my life in your words. But, that isn't my life. I took big steps to make sure that would never be my life.

I'm very willing to take your challenge. Ten minutes to convince me that Phil is the main source of my problems and the worst thing that ever happened to me? Good golly, woman. My life was a horrible upheaval that I handled really well. Then I met Phil. He was and still is the other half to me. I am my own being, strong and capable. I have had careers as a scientist and a writer. I continue to write as a new mother. Throughout all of it, I've had the most incredible partner. Neither of us takes on the traditional, set roles of man and woman. We share, we fret, we laugh, we love. I guess that makes us freaks among the masses.

I'm sorry that other women are kept down by circumstances. But, I do believe that life can be happy. There are choices to make at every turn in life, and we don't have to be bogged down by our past. We don't.

It's a great post, by the way. It rocked my socks.

Jennifer said...



You nailed it there.

*shakes head at self*

though I know what the men I work with think of me, and it isn't good.

LizB said...

She learns that men are the enemy, that men have been exploiting her and her sainted female ancestors since the crust of the earth cooled. Fantastic sentence.

This whole essay is fucking brilliant. You are making a powerful statement that admittedly isn't Everywoman's experience, but yes, in the confusion of shifting and sharing gender roles, finding our footing, etc., it is most definitely Somewomen's experience.

You were clear, clear, crystal clear, and I'm giving you a standing ovation for expressing your thoughts so well.


Annie said...

Hey Nina, that was depressing, but all too true and I am with you on all counts, I love to do a man's laundry when I am in love with him and I have always felt guilty :-). However, I don't want him to expect me to do his laundry for him, that would really piss me off.

Nina said...

To pick up where I left off:

Em, I can't imagine not having means of my own, either. But that might just be my personality. I got a job the day I turned sixteen because I wanted independence so badly. It would be difficult for me to give that up now. At the same time, it would be nice not to have to do absolutely everything myself. However, choosing to stay home for the sake of a child or children is almost always a good thing for the child or children. It tends to not be, however, if they mom is so miserable that she is actually a worse parent than she would be if she had a job and put the children in day care. Just depends, again.

P, I am wallowing, but I am not exactly complacent. The reason Mitt's question pissed me off is that in it he was implying something like "well abortion is legal and you can drive a car and wear pants so I guess everything is cool now, right?" And I was like, um, not really. It might be better in some ways but in others, it's worse.

Finn, yes, a new generation of boys are growing up. I just hope they don't grow up to be the sort of men I see out there now - the ones who think they have a perfect right to demand that you was their socks, vacuum under their asses and pay half their mortgage while we give them children and drive ourselves half-mad trying to stay attractive, too. I hate the whole thing. Pretty clear why I retired from dating, isn't it?

Ki, I wrote both perspectives in worst case scenario terms. Of course some people are happy. I even know of some people who love their husbands and are thrilled with how it has all turned out. Rather fewer, however, than I would like. Am I that unhappy? I don't know. But I do know that women seem to be offering and giving more than ever and men seem to be demanding and taking more than ever. Fifty years ago, a man would be flat out ashamed to have his wife working full time in addition to caring for him and his children. Now the average man treats a woman who doesn't want to work like she is a parasite. And no, that is not everyone's experience. But I see an awful lot of it out there and it disgusts me.

Julie, Rich is a nice guy. I do wish he'd stop changing his socks ten times a day, but overall, he seems ok to me. :-)

Utenzi, this has nothing to do with my chest. Stop thinking about boobs all the time. :-)

E_A, see above. Jen wants to meet you. Oh and that bigger than the both of you thing? That's marriage. It's nice to know that someone gets it. Oh and you are allowed to be sad and still be a man. My dad is the greatest person who ever lived and I've seen him cry tons of times. OK, well, at least five times anyway.

Jen, E-A is newly available. Check him out.

Binky, would you believe I actually thought of you when I was writing that dark phoenix bit? I did. All I can say is try to appreciate what you've got. So many people want it and don't have it and never will.

LizB, why thank you. I know it's dark and stormy and not Everywoman's experience. I just get pissed when someone tries to tell me feminism "worked" and that everything is fixed now. Yeah, right.

Annie, yes, the whole thing is depressing. Sometimes I think that if they male creature would just get on board with the fact that women need to be shown some appreciation for what we do, there would be happier marriages out there than the ones I have seen. Of course, I live in New York. No one gets married here anyway.

Effortlessly Average said...

Sounds fun; drop me a line! But remember, I don't put out till then END of the first date. Unless you want me to.


Carrie said...

What, if anything, is this really based upon? Seems like it's just the darkest incarnations of the past & present, stripped of any nuance and real feeling other than "THINGS ARE BAD. Especially in the "modern" version - it just seems to flow from the mind of one who's unhappy in her life in general, but interprets all of her unhappiness as originating in gender roles, rather than in the specific choices she makes (in partners, in education, in employment) and the resulting consequences.

And your examples are kinda extreme and ridiculous. Do you really believe that "She will work ten-hour days, and then she will cook, clean, and decorate on the weekends while he plays golf and goes to strip clubs with his friends." is the norm for heterosexual relationships today? Do you actually think that the majority of women have had uncaring after uncaring lover, resulting in them never experiencing orgasm? Are you truly under the impression that a woman getting pregnant usually results in her husband cheating on her? This is just so much hyperbolic bullshit.